- The Fornes Frame: Contemporary Latina Playwrights and the Legacy of Maria Irene Fornes by Anne García-Romero
Anne García-Romero’s new book explores how Latina playwrights began to find an influential position in the American theatre in the 1960s through the work of Maria Irene Fornes. Building from previous studies about Fornes’s work, such as Fornés: Theater in the Present Tense by Diana Lynn Moroff (1996) and Conducting a Life: Reflections on the Life of María Irene Fornés edited by Maria Delgado and Caridad Svich (1999), The Fornes Frame quite directly places Fornes at the beginning of a lineage of Latina playwriting that continues to flourish to the present day. In addition to exploring the life and work of Fornes, García-Romero attends to plays by Svich, Elaine Romero, Cusi Cram, Karen Zacarías, and Quiara Alegría Hudes. Mirroring recent trends in Latin@studies (and here I follow the author’s explicit use of the term and typography) to focus on transnational notions of Latinidad rather than on a singular ethnic identity, García-Romero has chosen these playwrights precisely because each traces her origins to a different Latina background (whether ethnic, social, geographical, and so on), which coincidentally influences the cultural encounters typifying their playwriting. Each woman speaks to the plurality of Latina identities and thus engages in a process of transculturation. For both theatre historians and Latin@studies researchers, The Fornes Frame will allow scholars to better understand the work, mentorship, influence, and legacy of Fornes on contemporary Latina theatre, which in turn will help frame and guide future scholarship.
In part, these playwrights manifest the multiculturalism that is trademark of Latin@ culture in the [End Page 485] early twenty-first century. Each comes from a multicultural background and engages in transcultural and transnational approaches to playwriting that disrupt monolithic narratives of Latin@culture and identity. Mixing Argentinian, Aztec, Bolivian, Chilean, Cuban, Dominican, Incan, Mexican, Puerto Rican, and Spanish cultures, they each stage complex cultural interactions. Although widely produced and published, this work has largely been absent from scholarship. Thus The Fornes Frame updates the archive about contemporary Latin@theatre and demands that the playwrights in question be studied and written about.
To do this, García-Romero theorizes three waves of Latina playwrights that studied with Fornes. The first wave was comprised of playwrights like Cherríe Moraga and Milcha Sánchez-Scott, who began during the 1980s and whose work foregrounds Latin@culture to examine the intersections of culture, politics, society, and identity. The second wave includes playwrights Migdalia Cruz and Carmelita Tropicana, whose work features complex realistic and metaphorical worlds that only sometimes exist within Latin@culture. The third wave, in which García-Romero maintains her focus, began in the 1990s and continues through the present and encompasses Latina playwrights whose work embraces translational notions of Latinidad that lead to more experimental and innovative theatre. Throughout, García-Romero questions how each playwright addresses transculturation in their work, focusing on how their protagonists negotiate transcultural identity, and how their plays embrace the supernatural in order to reflect on transculturation. As a result, each chapter investigates how these playwrights experiment with theatricality that is informed by transculturation. García-Romero devotes considerable attention to playwriting pedagogy, which provides a framework for exploring the contributions of Fornes as a playwright and mentor to an entire generation of Latin@playwrights. Under her influence, these playwrights forge new transcultural models of identity that update the landscape of Latin@theatre and in turn US theatre. García-Romero uses four foundational concepts—cultural multiplicity, supernatural intervention, Latina identity, and theatrical experimentation—to manifest how the playwrights in question rewrite traditional, monocultural views of Latinidad into more expansive, interconnected notions of translational Latinidad.
The book is divided into six chapters, each focusing on a single playwright alongside two of her signature plays. In chapter 1, after first offering an overview of Fornes’s life, pedagogy, and playwriting through an analysis of...